CURBBBBBB Lanes (2004)


(Cars Under Restraint for Bicycles, Boards, Blades, ‘Bringhies’ & Bus Boardings) A Way to Make our Urban Roads Conform to the ‘Green Transportation Hierarchy’ (GTH, 1992, revised in 1995 & 2002)
Chris Bradshaw, June 2004


The debate within the bicycle community as to how to encourage
more cycling is limited to two concepts: bike paths (separate
rights-of-way) and adding lanes to existing roads.  Both of those
approaches are based on the same false premise that is contrary
to the “Green Transportation Hierarchy”: walking first, bikes second,
transit third, MASCs (metered access to shared vehicles) fourth,
and cars last (copies available from the author; 4 pp) that states that
accommodating one mode should always be at the expense only of
modes “below” it on the hierarchy.

Both bike-lanes and bike paths (or more correctly, ‘recreation paths,’
since walkers, joggers, and bladers share them) are an example of
‘separate but equal,’ a fully discredited approach, in which, in the
name of ‘safety,’ the vulnerable road users are pushed to the side,
while the overall speed of motor traffic is allowed to increase.  They
also are expensive, requiring more space, which in existing rights-
of-way, is not usually available.  Finally, the pathway system requires
the mixing of walking and cycling.  This is not possible, except on
very low-use paths, since the speed differential is too great
(especially when the paths are “improved” – widened, shrubs moved
back for better visibility, and centre lines installed to keep
walkers from lining up abreast of each other to carry on a
conversation; this social function, alone, makes walking and cycling
very different).


The CURBBBBB option is very simple: designate every through lane
that is a adjacent to the curb as a CURBBB lane.  In such a lane,
the speed and acceleration of all users is limited to
that of a _normal_ cyclist, not the exceptionally fit, lycra-clad
20-year-old male, but his business-attired European counterpart,
probably riding a functional three-speed, 10-year-old steed with
all the practical accessories that are rejected by North American
affectionados as doing little more than adding weight and wind
friction: full fenders, chain guard, horn and light.  I estimate
that 12 mph (20 kph) would be about right.

The inside lanes (non-existent on two-lane and most residential
streets) would have the same traffic rules as they now have.
Traffic would, though, not be segregated by _mode_ but by speed
and acceleration (Thus not challenging the present principle of
‘speed layering’).  Thus, cars would enter the road and use the
CURBBBBB lane until ready to move to the inside lane; if there is
no non-CURBBBBB lane, they would just conform to the CURBBBBB
behaviour until they exited.  The road user would still get to
his/her destination, but without the “advantage” of a higher
speed, which provides today’s “intimidation from behind”.  The
high-performance cyclist, similarly would not be confined to the
CURBBBBB lanes, but be free to move to the inside lanes (or simply
keep to the far left of the CURBBBB lane).

Since CURBBBBB lanes will be the same width as now, there would be
plenty of room of all types of cyclists, for left and right turn
“lanes”, and for buses to stop and still leave room for human-
powered users, as well as those using small, slow powered devices
as scooters (including Segways) and NVs (neighbourhood vehicles),
both referred to here as ‘bringhies’ (as in the water-based cousin,
the dinghy).  By keeping these vehicles in slower spaces, crash
protection requirements – and thus the size, power, and weight –
need not be as great.]

The effect would be to remove the need to widen roads, or to move
lane markings (making the faster centre lane incongruously
narrower), and plenty of room for what cyclists _claim_ to want:
hoardes of former drivers converted to cycling, who will need to
be comfortable passing each other.  There is another safety advan-
tage: by providing this, the BBB (& ‘bringhies’) would not need to be
used on sidewalks, and if used on pathways, their users should be
satisfied going no faster than the speed of walking.

This proposal is essentially what exists in much of Europe, where
cyclists use bikes for transportation in a way that doesn’t require
a shower and a change of clothes at each end, where cyclists of
many levels of experience and capability are comfortable, where
bicycles are not so valuable and exotic that owners need locks
more expensive than the annual income of the average Third World
worker, and where pedestrians don’t have to walk with 40-mph
traffic (or sidewalk-ridden bicycles) whizzing past their

If cycling supposed to take the _place_ of cars, trucks, and buses,
then let’s put them in the _space_ of cars, trucks, and buses.
Don’t wrap the mode in the cloth of environmentalism and
then encourage cyclists to mingle with the most vulnerable
travellers in the sanctuaries called parks and sidewalks where
public life itself is under assault enough.

NOTE: Duany, et. al., in _Suburban Nation_, introduce the idea of
‘yield streets’ in which there is only one through lane (and two
parking lanes) on a two-way street.  Such a street required motorists
to squeeze to the side to get past each other, while cyclists can use
the street as before, taking advantage of their narrowness.

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